“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin
Last week I was chatting with my youngest daughter Lia. We were talking about life and how often people and friendships change. I brought up a friend of mine whom I haven’t heard from in a while despite my efforts to stay in touch.
She looked over at me with her young, 15-years of wisdom, “Mom, people sometimes get so caught up in life that they forget what’s really important. They need to slow down and live in the moment. Life goes by too fast.” I smiled at her both surprised and somewhat saddened.
Things were so different when I was a kid. For one, things were so much slower—at least
they appeared to be. I don’t think I ever thought about the importance of living in the moment when I was Lia’s age. I mean aren’t kids supposed to do just that . . . enjoy the moment, lay back and be carefree?
Part of the reason things are so different today is technology. Of course, the technological advancements have improved our way of life in many ways. Admittedly, I feel lost these days when I’m without my cell phone. But that’s not always a good thing.
Research has shown that technology is distorting our perception of time. While all the technological advancements of recent years have helped our brains process information faster than ever before, they have also deceived us into thinking that time passes much faster than it actually does.
James Cook University professor Aoife McLoughlin studied the effects of technology on our perception of time. “It’s almost as though we’re trying to emulate the technology and be speedier and more efficient, she said in an interview with ScienceAlert. It seems like there’s something about technology itself that primes us to increase that pacemaker inside of us that measures the passing of time.” (https://www.sciencealert.com/research-suggests-that-technology-is-speeding-up-our-perception-of-time)
McLoughlin found that technology is improving the brain’s ability to process information. But while we can process information faster, we also incorrectly perceive time as moving quicker than it actually is. And because we are more connected via social media, there is an added amount of stress.
With this increased sense of time comes a false sense of urgency and with that comes stress and the constant pressure to keep up and do more. Our extreme dependence on technology has literally taken us out of the present moment in many ways because we are constantly thinking of our next move. We are constantly distracted by the latest social media post or the latest text on our mobile device. We are so connected all the time that we have no time to just disconnect.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the author of The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, explains it well, “We’re simply being in that moment to take the next action,” says Zimbardo. “It’s really minimizing the quality of life. It’s minimizing the joy that we ought to be getting from everyday life.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/technology-time-perception_n_4378010.html).
One of my pet peeves, for example, is the use of cell phones at the dinner table. If my daughters are not checking their phones in plain view, they are hiding them under the table. This constant need for information and instant gratification has changed everything about life—including family dynamics.
The world is moving at such a swift pace these days that we feel busier than ever before. We speed through dinner so we can get to the next task. In a sense technology is a double-edged sword. In some ways it has improved our quality of life but in other ways it has hindered it.
As a writer, the internet has certainly made my life a lot easier. Gone are the days of going to the library to search for the latest information. Nowadays everything is easily accessible online. Constantly being connected, however, has in many ways blurred the boundaries between work and non-work.
Since we constantly feel the need to stay on top of things we rarely take the time to disconnect. And, yet, this is exactly what we need to do from time to time. We’ve all become so crazed by all the big, amazing technology out there that we’ve forgotten about all those small things that used to amaze us.
Here are some simple tips:
- Take the Time to Detach: Whenever possible, leave your smartphone home. Take a break from Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Focus on the Moment: How do we concentrate on the moment when we are constantly worrying about the next thing on the agenda? Practice mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness means bringing your awareness to the present moment. That may sound easy but with all the distractions that we have going on today, it has actually become harder and harder. Take a deep breath and truly acknowledge your thoughts and feelings at that moment. It’s a great way to stay grounded and focused on the things that really matter without jumping ahead to all those things that don’t matter. For example, stop constantly checking your Facebook post to see what people are saying. Ethel Barrett, a writer and speaker, once said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”
- Take Note of Your Priorities: We spend so much time jumping from one thing to the next that we forget, as my daughter Lia pointed out earlier, what’s really important. Stop. Take a moment to think about what you are doing and decide what is truly important to you. Then spend more time thinking about the things that matter and less time fretting over the things that don’t.
- Make Time for Friends and Family: As I sit here writing this blog, I can honestly think of several people that I regrettably lost touch with. Yes, as a mother, author and speaker, I am busy. But I don’t care how busy you are, you make time for the people you want to make time for.
- Be Spontaneous: Everyone has such jam-packed schedules these days that it has become increasingly difficult to just be spontaneous. Do something unplanned once in a while and just enjoy the moment.
- Don’t Lose Sight of YOU! I added this one last because if there is one tip that I would like you to take away from this blog, this would be it. We get so caught up in the everyday grind that we forget about the one person who matters most: YOU! Believe me when I tell you that I’ve been there and done that. I’ve often been so busy worrying about everybody else that I’ve forgotten to take care of me. Sound familiar? Don’t lose sight of you. Allow yourself that much needed time out and do something for YOU!
Actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (more commonly known by his stage name Moliere), once said, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” If you take the time to slow down if only a little, you’ll begin to notice beauty you’ve never seen before. Not that it wasn’t there before, you just never took the time to notice.